Intestacy- What happens someone dies without leaving a will?

  • Author: David Crosby
  • Posted on: 23rd March 2021
  • Posted in: Blog

What is Intestacy? 

If an individual dies without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament to clearly explain how they want their estate shared among surviving family or friends then they are deemed to have died "Intestate".

The rules of Intestacy that come into place follow a fixed pattern which may not allow for modern relationships and at best may not provide for dependents as you wish and at worst may see your entire estate revert to the Crown. 

Even if these rules do fulfil your wishes there is still likely to be a sting in the tail for your loved ones at the worst possible time...   

What happens if I don't leave a will?

But we've been together for years... 

According to the rules of Intestacy, unless you are married or in a civil partnership, the surviving partner has no default right to inherit from the deceased.  This applies regardless of any family you may have together and as a result, the surviving partner could be forced to sell a family home or other assets, causing more upheaval and heartache.   

Okay but what about the kids? 

The rules follow a set order of "succession" and your estate will be distributed equally amongst the first of the following groups that survive you in your family: 

  • Surviving Spouse/Civil Partner
  • Children or their descendants
  • Parents, siblings
  • Half-siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Half-aunts and uncles
  • The Crown.   

Intestacy Limits 

If you are married or in a civil partnership and have children, the surviving spouse or civil partner will receive a maximum of £270,000 plus 50% of the remaining balance of the estate with the other 50% going to the children when they are 18. 

Now consider how quickly the £270,000 portion could be swallowed up when considering house prices in the South East. 

Thankfully most children won't evict Mum or Dad, but what about those from a previous relationship?   

Time is a factor... 

Even if the rules of Intestacy would distribute your estate according to your preferences, dying intestate could also cause a delay in loved ones receiving anything as it can take months or even years to settle an estate where there is no will.   

What is the alternative? 

Having a valid Will drafted gives you the opportunity to leave specific items to friends and relatives, leave all or a portion of your assets to charities, name a guardian for your children, make arrangements for pets, specify your wishes for burial/funeral arrangements and appoint an executor who will ensure that your wishes are carried out.       

What can I do to protect my loved ones? 

To discuss having a first will prepared, or if a will already exists, having that reviewed to ensure it now fully reflects your current wishes and intentions, please call and speak to one of our specialist private client team on 01273 734 600 or email us to arrange a meeting It's likely to be the best value gift you ever give your family.